BrainTrust Query: Tell ’em Where to Go!
Commentary by Herb Sorensen, Scientific Advisor, TNS Retail and Shopper
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is an abstract from the
white paper, Tell’em Where to Go; Tell’em Which to Buy!,
from TNS Retail and Shopper. Click here for a copy of the white paper.
With 80 percent of shoppers’ time wasted in the store,
why do retailers generally ignore the importance of the speed of shopping?
The "typical" shopper comes through the door looking to buy a few items
and faces the problem of 30,000+ items scattered across a large sales floor. "Where
are those items?" "How will I know which of the hundreds offered I
should buy?" These twin time wasters also represent large opportunities.
- The shopper where to go.
- Them what to buy.
The first of these opportunities – creating a single clear path for the shopper
through the store. Most stores offer overwhelming options, thousands of possible
paths for the shopper to navigate around the store. But even with all the options,
retailers can create a single dominant pathway. Hint: It’s easier for both
the store and the shopper to manage one path than thousands.
Since the U-turn
is the natural tendency of shoppers,
every self-service retailer should guide shoppers through such a trip, in subtle
and effective ways.
Compare, for example, shoppers’ routes in a store with diffuse
paths (e.g., Safeway) with those in a store with a single "U-turn-type" path
(e.g., Stew Leonard’s).
This Safeway is a typical multi-aisle store, with
a nearly unlimited number of path possibilities. The U-turn is the most common
form in this store, but it is diffused across multiple aisles, essentially
multiple U-turn possibilities. The diffuse trips are reflected in the diffuse
trip lengths, in the five to 20-minute range. Such stores typically achieve
$15-30 million in annual sales. Contrast this with Stew Leonard’s, where most
shoppers have similar trip lengths, 15 to 30 minutes, on an identical "U-turn" path
delivering $100 million in sales. Stew Leonard’s converts a portion of that
80 percent wasted time to purchasing instead of worthless (to the retailer)
and frustrating (to the shopper) time spent wandering about the store.
U-turn path at Costco delivers similar outsize results — as much as one million
dollars per day in their top store. The selling results for four stores are
presented here for comparison:
The data show that although Walmart and Costco
have similar "average" trip
lengths, Costco has something like five times the basket size as the Walmart
Supercenter. Costco achieves this by selling at a much higher speed. For Walmart,
the few items most shoppers will want to buy are buried in an indiscriminate
sea of options, with no clear path that connects those products — no clear
With similarly broad category lines as the two stores, Costco manages
to sell a dollars worth of merchandise in a scant 15 seconds, while Walmart
Supercenter takes 73 seconds, nearly five times as long, once again confirming
that the faster you sell, the more you will sell. And a prominent U-turn can
play a role in that.
Discussion Questions: Are single-path store configurations the optimal selling
model across retail channels? Is "speed of shopping" as important
a metric regardless of channel? Where do you see store configurations heading
in the future?